Senate Approves Senator Laughlin’s Consumer Protection Measure

 

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The Senate today (October 17) approved a measure introduced by Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) that will better protect consumers from unreasonably excessive building inspection fees and unnecessary construction costs.

Under the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (UCC), municipalities can handle inspections with their own employees, enter into a joint agreement with other municipalities, or hire a third-party agency to administer their inspection program. This system, Senator Laughlin said, gives companies a virtual monopoly that allows them to charge excessive fees or demand unneeded work that ultimately end up being passed on to consumers.

Senate Bill 663 amends the UCC act to eliminate the monopoly by requiring municipalities to contract with at least three third-party agencies to handle building inspections. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.     

“This bill addresses the problems that have arisen when municipalities have contracted with a single company to handle its building code inspections.  I have a fairly good understanding of the construction industry and I know there can be serious and costly issues when contractors are forced by a monopolized market to deal with the way a single company interprets the UCC. That goes beyond the intent of the law and gives those inspectors too much control over how builders do their job,” Senator Laughlin said. “Senate Bill 663 breaks the monopoly. It will increase competition and ensure that residents receive the opportunity to have inspections completed in a reasonably priced and competitive manner.”

Contact:         

Matt Azeles
mazeles@pasen.gov

Senate approves Argall bill to protect consumers

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a proposal written by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) that would protect consumers utilizing household goods movers.

“We have an uneven playing field in Pennsylvania and this will make sure consumers are protected in the future,” Argall said. “In Pennsylvania, it is more advantageous to operate a household goods moving company illegally than it is to comply with the law. These illegal companies often lack the necessary insurance coverage to protect damaged goods during a move, leaving the consumer on the hook.”
Current law requires any household goods moving company to register with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). For-hire household goods movers must carry adequate insurance to protect property moved and workers compensation for their employees. Some movers are skirting the law by not registering with the PUC and not carrying adequate coverage for the goods they are transporting.

Argall’s bill would make it a punishable offense to perform an illegal move in the state with a $5,000 fine. Vehicles used in an illegal household goods move would be confiscated and registration would be suspended. Repeat offenders would be subject to a $10,000 fine. Revenue generated under the bill would be invested into future motor carrier enforcement through the PUC.

The bill only applies to commercial, for-hire entities.

The legislation moves to the House of Representatives.

 

Contact: Christine Verdier
717.787.2637

Senate Passes McGarrigle Consumer Protection Bill

Harrisburg, PA – On Wednesday, October 21, the Pennsylvania State Senate passed Senate Bill 874, legislation that would amend the Cemetery and Funeral Merchandise Trust Fund Law. This consumer protection bill was introduced by State Senator Tom McGarrigle and was passed by the Senate 26-20.

The legislation better protects consumers by prohibiting a practice known as “constructive delivery”, thus insuring that funds will be maintained in trust and available at the time of need. The bill also provides for a return of funds if the purchaser cancels the contract prior to performance.  These changes will help protect the increasing number of individuals who choose to enter “pre-need” contracts for funeral services and merchandise.

Currently, the Cemetery and Funeral Merchandise Trust Fund Law (Act 459 of 1963) requires sellers of funeral services and merchandise that are to be delivered at a future date (pre-need) to deposit 70% of the purchase price into a trust fund account.

Some in the industry have misinterpreted the law and sought to avoid the 70% trusting requirement through the use of “constructive delivery” of certain merchandise prior to the time of need.  Certain merchandise, such as caskets and burial vaults, are purchased prior to the time of need and purportedly set aside for the purchaser but never actually delivered to the purchaser.  Claiming that the merchandise has been delivered, sellers then retain 100% of the sale price rather than complying with the trusting requirements.

Senator McGarrigle commented, “This is an important piece of consumer protection for those who enter into pre-need contracts for end of life services. The mission of this legislation is to ensure that when the purchaser of these goods and services passes away, the money that they provided to cover their funeral and burial costs has been protected and is immediately available.”

Senate Bill 874 will now head to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for consideration.

Gordner Bill to Modernize the State Psychological Practice Act Passes Senate

(HARRISBURG) – – Legislation authored by Senator John R. Gordner (R-27) that represents the first modernization of the Pennsylvania Psychological Practice Act since 1986 unanimously passed the Senate today.

“While none of the proposed changes to the act expand the scope of practice or alter qualifications to practice psychology, this legislation modernizes several licensing processes and improves the ability of the State Board of Psychology to enforce disciplinary actions,” said Senator Gordner.

Among its provisions, Senate Bill 772 would:

  • Clarify that diagnosis is within the scope of practice for licensed psychologists.
  • Give the State Board the power to deny temporary licenses to those who have had disciplinary actions against them in other states.
  • Strengthen the powers of the State Board in disciplinary proceedings.
  • Provide that licensed psychologists disclose other professional licenses held, and any disciplinary actions occurring under those licenses.
  • Provide options to doctoral students when completing required clinical supervisions.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT:  Todd B. Roup (717)787-8928

 

 

Senate Sends McIlhinney’s Copayment Protection Measure to the Governor

HARRISBURG – A bill that would protect consumers against paying multiple copayments for physical therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapy services was approved by the Senate today and sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 487, sponsored by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-10), prohibits health insurance policies from charging a consumer more than one copayment amount per visit. The bill would also prevent policies from depleting more than one visit for services provided on a given date.

“The healthcare landscape has changed dramatically in recent years due to health insurance mandates and other provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act,” McIlhinney said. “This measure will better protect health plan policyholders by preventing insurance companies from shifting an even greater share of the financial burden onto consumers.”

The bill requires the Pennsylvania Department to develop regulations relating to multiple copayments. Companies that violate the law would face penalties prescribed in the Unfair Insurance Practices Act.

CONTACT: Heather Cevasco (215) 489-5000